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Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers: Treating Motherhood As A Topic Worthy Of Literature For Over 15 Years – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Marcelle Soviero, Owner & Editor-In-Chief, Brain, Child & Brain, Teen.

February 8, 2016

“Our readers still like hard copy. I think print is important for this kind of content to sort of snuggle up with, while you’re feeding your baby even, and just be able to read and be stimulated intellectually with a magazine on your lap.” Marcelle Soviero

BC SP 14 Cover Final Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers was founded in 2000 and is an award-winning literary magazine dedicated to motherhood. Unfortunately, four years ago the magazine was about to shut down its operation when an essayist and writer happened to send in a submission to the magazine. When she was told that no submissions were being accepted due to the publication’s closure, she did what she felt she had to do when she heard the news: she bought it.

That writer was Marcelle Soviero, who bought Brain, Child in 2012 and immediately launched Brain, Teen to complement a magazine that she had believed in since its inception in 2000. As a mother of five children, Marcelle had grown her children up with the magazine and had always been one of its biggest fans.

Now as the owner, and editor-in-chief, she has expanded the magazine’s social media footprint extensively and has moved the print edition of Brain, Child into the digital realms, while maintaining Brain, Teen and the brand’s annual anthology, in print.

I spoke with Marcelle recently and we talked about her passion for the brand and the decision to take Brain, Child digital-only and her hope that someday the magazine will once again be offered in print as Brain, Teen and her yearly special issues are. And we talked about the brand’s mission: to bring the voices of women of different backgrounds and circumstances together on the page, the website and in the online community. Through essays, fiction and feature stories, Marcelle chooses the best writers she can find to connect mothers with many diverse perspectives on dealing with motherhood in the 21st century.

Marcelle is a woman who believes in print and the need for it in today’s digital age, but also understands the positivity and reach that digital can bring to a brand when the two components are working together for a complementary common goal. And with a literary magazine like Brain, Child, the need for print and digital is strong.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Brain, Child’s own mother of invention, Marcelle Soviero.

But first the sound-bites:

Marclle Headshot 1 On what made her buy Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers: I was a reader and a writer when my children were young. And I have five children, so I sort of grew them up with the magazine, if you will. I went to submit my writing to them one day and it said that they were ceasing publication. So, I immediately called them up and told them that I wanted to buy it and asked what the picture looked like, because I still believed in the magazine.

On whether her decision to buy was based on business or passion: It was definitely a decision of passion. And then when it became real; when I called the owners and they told me that they hadn’t even thought of selling it; I started to do the numbers and thought that it really made sense and that I could make it work because I was so passionate about it.

On whether people told her she was crazy to invest in print in a digital age: Many people said that to me in jest, but in truth as well. And it has been hard; it’s not easy to keep it up, but we’re healthy and have a good readership. I certainly brought the magazine into the digital age; we have digital products and our social media footprint has gone up to 190,000 on Facebook. When I bought it we were at 8,000, so we’ve certainly developed a wider audience using digital tools and having digital products.

On how she would describe the magazine to someone who had never seen it before: Brain, Child is the magazine for thinking mothers; it’s the largest, oldest literary magazine for mothers. And we’re distributed worldwide. And I also own and edit it.

On what she’s offering mothers that they can’t get anyplace else: We’re offering personal stories and narratives that are edited; we actually edit our pieces. These aren’t just long pieces slapped up on the Internet; we have a rigorous editing, fact-checking, proofreading system that’s expensive, but I will keep it in place because I believe in it.

On whether she changed anything about the magazine after she bought it or kept it the same: No, we did a whole redesign of the magazine after the first issue. We went in and sort of updated everything with a professional designer and we’ve had good feedback with that. In fact, what was most interesting was when I first took it over and it was announced by the previous owner that they weren’t going out of business that I was buying it instead; I received fan mail from around the world, literally, as though I were their knight in shining armor, thanking me for saving the magazine.

On launching Brain, Teen simultaneously with taking over the magazine: Yes, I bought the magazine in August, 2012 and we began planning, and I think the issue actually came out in 2013, the special Brain, Teen issue. It was my immediate plan. It was the business idea that I thought of immediately to sort of bring the business up to speed.

On how large her team is: They are all consultants to the company, freelance, and I have a managing editor. Otherwise, certainly our writers are from all around the world. We get about 1,000 to 2,000 submissions each month for the magazine, both online and digital.

On which she finds more exciting as a writer, seeing her byline in print or online: I would say initially it was print that I found more exciting, but now, as I tell my authors, because we publish a lot more online than we do in print, the readership is so much greater online. It’s not even comparable; our circulation is relatively small, and as I said, I’ve already told you the numbers on our community pages and other digital outlets. So, in terms of actually having the writing out there, it’s become much more important to have the online byline, but my passion is to have my byline in print, I’d say.

Brain Child 1-1 On why she thinks print is still important in this digital age: Our readers still like hard copy. I think print is important for this kind of content to sort of snuggle up with, while you’re feeding your baby even, and just be able to read and be stimulated intellectually with a magazine on your lap.

On any challenges she’s had to face during her four-year journey with the magazine: There have been many challenges and hurdles in just supporting a print magazine with the numbers being nearly impossible. And if we didn’t have the online component, I don’t think that I could do it. Just supporting the print and production and design process and doing it well, as I said, with the best writers; the best design team and things like that, has been a real challenge to make it work.

On whether her magazine is print + digital free and whether she feels they complement each other: No, our magazine Brain, Child is only digital, it’s only online. And our print product, the special issue for parents of teens and our annual Greatest Hits, are print. So, they’re pretty separate in terms of the content and the production process. But they do complement each other, but we never offered print + digital free. Never.

On what motivates her to get out of bed in the morning: The possibility of finding a new writer, the next best piece that I’m going to read and share with the world, with the mothers and the excitement of working with great writers. For someone who is a writer and a mother, I can’t think of anything better.

On whether she thinks Brain, Child will ever come back to print: Yes, absolutely. Some people will call me crazy for that, but we sort of had to get the revenue pieces in check. And as I said, Brain, Teen is a print product and our annual special issue is a print product, so we haven’t abandoned print.

On anything else that she’d like to add: Buying Brain, Child was the best thing that I ever did, outside of marrying my husband. (Laughs) I do want to be clear that Brain, Child is not print anymore, it’s just Brain, Teen that’s print.

On what keeps her up at night: Competition; that there’s more people publishing narrative than ever before. I think when Brain, Child started we were certainly the one and only person writing about motherhood, but now there are plenty of blogs and sites for women. I don’t feel we have the competition, but I worry about it.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Marcelle Soviero, Owner, Editor-In-Chief, Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers.

Samir Husni: Tell me about Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers; what made you buy the company?

Marcelle Soviero: I was a reader and a writer when my children were young. And I have five children, so I sort of grew them up with the magazine, if you will. I went to submit my writing to them one day, I’m an essayist and I have a few books, and it said that they were ceasing publication. So, I immediately called them up and told them that I wanted to buy it and asked what the picture looked like, because I still believed in the magazine.

I had had a career in magazine publishing and online publishing when I bought it, and I had just left a job where I was commuting to Chicago in a very high-powered corporate position, so it was like all of the stars came together and I bought the magazine within three weeks. I went down to Virginia and cut thousands of back issues and brought them up to Connecticut where I live, and I just started producing the magazine and keeping it going, so we only missed one issue when I bought it.

Samir Husni: Was it a business decision or a decision of passion that caused you to buy the magazine?

Brain Child 2-2 Marcelle Soviero: It was definitely a decision of passion. And then when it became real; when I called the owners and they told me that they hadn’t even thought of selling it; I started to do the numbers and thought that it really made sense and that I could make it work because I was so passionate about it. And the readership of the magazine was equally as passionate about it as I was, they had grown their kids up with it too, so it was a little bit of both, but definitely first passion and just a gut feeling that it was the right time to do it.

Samir Husni: And four years ago, did anyone say to you that you were crazy to invest in a print product for children; haven’t you heard that we live in a digital age?

Marcelle Soviero: Many people said that to me in jest, but in truth as well. And it has been hard; it’s not easy to keep it up, but we’re healthy and have a good readership. I certainly brought the magazine into the digital age; we have digital products and our social media footprint has gone up to 190,000 on Facebook. When I bought it we were at 8,000, so we’ve certainly developed a wider audience using digital tools and having digital products. No question about that. I sort of took advantage of that, while still producing the print magazine.

Samir Husni: If you met someone on the street and introduced yourself to them by telling them you were the owner, editor and publisher of Brain, Child magazine; the first question they might ask you is “what’s that?”

Marcelle Soviero: And my answer would be Brain, Child is the magazine for thinking mothers; it’s the largest, oldest literary magazine for mothers. And we’re distributed worldwide. And I also own and edit it.

Samir Husni: Tell me a little bit more about the content; what are you offering mothers today that they can’t find any other place?

Brain Child 3-3 Marcelle Soviero: We’re offering personal stories and narratives that are edited; we actually edit our pieces. These aren’t just long pieces slapped up on the Internet; we have a rigorous editing, fact-checking, proofreading system that’s expensive, but I will keep it in place because I believe in it.

So we offer personal stories and connection for women, one story at a time, for mothers in our community, to our pages and our digital products. It’s essays, fiction, poetry, debates and book reviews.

Samir Husni: Since you assumed ownership of the magazine, what has been the feedback that you’ve received? Could the legacy readership tell there was a new ownership with the magazine or have you kept the flow and pace, in terms of the content, the way it was before you bought it?

Marcelle Soviero: No, we did a whole redesign of the magazine after the first issue. We went in and sort of updated everything with a professional designer and we’ve had good feedback with that. In fact, what was most interesting was when I first took it over and it was announced by the previous owner that they weren’t going out of business that I was buying it instead; I received fan mail from around the world, literally, as though I were their knight in shining armor, thanking me for saving the magazine. There was just a ridiculous amount of passion and feedback, so that was the first step that fired my own passion to continue to do it.

I would say the connection with the readers is very good. The biggest thing we’ve done in more recent years is as I aged out of the magazine, because Brain, Child is for mothers who have children 0-12, is I introduced a special issue for parents of teens called, Brain, Teen. Basically I kept for mothers like me who grew up with it and now have teenagers; I kept the product line going so that we could really meet that need. And that has been our more successful product out of the two now in the last four years.

Samir Husni: When did you launch Brain, Teen?

Marcelle Soviero: In 2012.

Samir Husni: So at the same time that you were taking over Brain, Child?

Brain Child 4-4 Marcelle Soviero: Yes, I bought the magazine in August, 2012 and we began planning, and I think the issue actually came out in 2013, the special Brain, Teen issue. It was my immediate plan. It was the business idea that I thought of immediately to sort of bring the business up to speed.

That was a big change and the design was a big change and certainly we post edited, beautiful blog posts every day as we’ve built up this readership. Our social imprint online has become huge and I sort of tapped into that passion. As I said, we have a very large community on Facebook that’s highly engaged in terms of our numbers, compared to other sites that have a million followers and we have around 200,000. Our engagement can be as much as 100,000, which is half our audience.

Samir Husni: As I hear you talk about the magazine, I can hear the passion and fire in your voice. How do you handle everything as a mother of five kids? How big is your team; is Brain, Child Marcelle and a few others? Or do you have a large team working with you? I know you said that you have a very expensive fact-checking system in place that you don’t want to change.

Marcelle Soviero: Right. They are all consultants to the company, freelance, and I have a managing editor. Otherwise, certainly our writers are from all around the world. We get about 1,000 to 2,000 submissions each month for the magazine, both online and digital.

But I think my passion comes from being a writer and having intellectual stimulation in reading all of the submissions that come in. And I love the editing process, being a writer. It makes my own writing better and I realize that we’re doing something different in working with writers and improving the content to make it perfect to be seen by the public, again as opposed to just throwing stuff up online. I also believe in paying our writers. We pay our writers, not much; we’re a commercial magazine and we’re distributed widely, but we’re also a literary magazine and traditionally they’re not high-paying. And we’re not high-paying, but one of my premises, being a writer, is that I pay my writers.

Samir Husni: Let’s forget for a moment that you’re the owner of the magazine; as a writer do you feel a different reaction when you see your name in print as opposed to seeing your name online? Which excites you more and gives you that thrill of saying, look I’ve published something?

Marcelle Soviero: That’s a great question. I would say initially it was print that I found more exciting, but now, as I tell my authors, because we publish a lot more online than we do in print, the readership is so much greater online. It’s not even comparable; our circulation is relatively small, and as I said, I’ve already told you the numbers on our community pages and other digital outlets. So, in terms of actually having the writing out there, it’s become much more important to have the online byline, but my passion is to have my byline in print, I’d say.

Samir Husni: And why do you think print is still important in this digital age?

Brin Child 5-5 Marcelle Soviero: Our readers still like hard copy. I think print is important for this kind of content to sort of snuggle up with, while you’re feeding your baby even, and just be able to read and be stimulated intellectually with a magazine on your lap.

But we have a lot of digital adopters. Our print now is really the special issue for parents of teens and our annual anthology and our magazine is more digital and online now.

Samir Husni: In your four year journey with the magazine, has it always been smooth sailing, or have you had some choppy waters with major challenges along the way?

Marcelle Soviero: There have been many challenges and hurdles in just supporting a print magazine with the numbers being nearly impossible. And if we didn’t have the online component, I don’t think that I could do it. Just supporting the print and production and design process and doing it well, as I said, with the best writers; the best design team and things like that, has been a real challenge to make it work.

Samir Husni: Have you ever considered stopping the print edition and only staying online?

Marcelle Soviero: Brain, Child, actually, the original product, is online now. And our print product is Brain, Teen. And our special issues are print too.

Samir Husni: You said that without online you feel like you could not have survived, but how do you juggle between the need for print and the need for online? Do you view them as complementary to each other or as enemies? Is it print + digital for you or is it print or digital?

Marcelle Soviero: No, our magazine Brain, Child is only digital, it’s only online. And our print product, the special issue for parents of teens and our annual Greatest Hits, are print. So, they’re pretty separate in terms of the content and the production process. But they do complement each other, but we never offered print + digital free. Never. We always did print + and/or pay the same amount for digital.

Samir Husni: So you always charged for digital, there was nothing free? No welfare information society?

Marcelle Soviero: No. The issues were paid for. Obviously, our website is all free content and eventually what’s in print makes it to the website, but it’s much, much later on in the process.

Samir Husni: But the digital editions are paid for?

Marcelle Soviero: Correct.

Samir Husni: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and say it’s going to be a great day?

Marcelle Soviero: The possibility of finding a new writer, the next best piece that I’m going to read and share with the world, with the mothers and the excitement of working with great writers. For someone who is a writer and a mother, I can’t think of anything better. So, I’m excited and I always think that I’m going to find the next best piece, the next Pushcart Press Award. And I really love working with all of our writers.

Samir Husni: Do you think Brain, Child will ever come back to print?

Marcelle Soviero: Yes, absolutely. Some people will call me crazy for that, but we sort of had to get the revenue pieces in check. And as I said, Brain, Teen is a print product and our annual special issue is a print product, so we haven’t abandoned print.

Samir Husni: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Marcelle Soviero: Buying Brain, Child was the best thing that I ever did, outside of marrying my husband. (Laughs) I do want to be clear that Brain, Child is not print anymore, it’s just Brain, Teen that’s print.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Marcelle Soviero: Competition; that there’s more people publishing narrative than ever before. I think when Brain, Child started we were certainly the one and only person writing about motherhood, but now there are plenty of blogs and sites for women. I don’t feel we have the competition, but I worry about it. I think about somebody who really would start actively treating the process of producing a magazine and an online product like we’ve done, somebody who is larger and has more resources.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

2 comments

  1. […] Read Article […]


  2. How do I submit to Brain, Child?



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